Learning! 100 Transforming the Workplace

Learning! 100 Transforming the Workplace

Learning! 100 Transforming the Workplace

This year’s Learning! 100 winners share common experiences. These honorees have been transforming their learning and talent programs. They started from scratch, enabled new technologies and processes, and ended up being more efficient and impactful. The most successful have been named 2013 Learning! 100 award winners. In its 3rd year, the Learning! 100 awards honor high performance, organizational culture, innovation and collaboration.

For the first time, we recognized four unique organizations that have garnered dual honors as Learning! 100 organizations and Best in Elearning! solution providers. These four organizations literally “walk the talk.” Special recognition goes to SuccessFactors, an SAP Company, Oracle, IBM and Cisco. All are leaders in learning and technology, as well as high performing businesses.

As in previous years, Elearning! and Government Elearning! magazines (EMG) recognize 60 corporate and 40 public-sector organizations for outstanding learning culture, innovation or collaboration that drives performance. Honorees cut across all industries and organization sizes, from 2 to 2.6 million employees. “We are honored to recognize these top performing learning organizations for 2013,” says Catherine Upton, group publisher. “Altogether, the Learning! 100 winners represent the best-of-the-best in learning and development across multi-national organizations.” The Learning! 100 Award program has a solid, research-based approach that offers firms a level playing field despite size, and many post-awards learning opportunities to share their knowledge.

Learning! 100 applicants were evaluated across three criteria: Aberdeen Group’s Best-in-Class Learning & Development assessment, EMG’s Learning Culture index, and overall organizational performance. Each submission received a rating for each section, and scores were totaled to identify the top 100. Their individual Learning! 100 rankings were determined by overall performance and the impact of their learning leadership.

“The top-ranked organizations all drive innovation and learning impact across their organizations,” says Jerry Roche,editorial director. “For example, American Heart Association’s mission is to reduce heart-related mortalities. It embraces learning across its communities: medical practitioners, employees and volunteers. The mission is honorable, and its learning strategies are impactful.”

There are lessons in the following pages that can apply to all learning organizations. Your peers hint that even more is possible than what has been done in the past. First and foremost, we can use new technologies entering the workplace — from smartphones and tablets to Skype and other telepresence technology — to go where we’ve never gone before and be what we’ve never been before. We can be more efficient. We can be more cost-effective. We can be more learner-centric. We can reach new audiences wherever they are. We can provide better ways to collaborate. We can move out of the classroom and into the workplace. We can even flip the entire process of learning, like what’s being done at Khan Academy. It’s our collective imagination that defines those limits, and it’s people on the cutting-edge of learning that will determine our futures.

Elearning! and Government Elearning! magazines proudly salute the achievements and outstanding leadership of this year’s winners. Your organization is invited to apply (or re-apply) for the 2014 Learning! 100 awards. For more information, visit the website www.2elearning.com.

Top Learning Organization 2013

1- Defense Acquisition University: Learning Technology Lab

Despite a setback that would throw most managers into a tailspin, the U.S. Defense Acquisition University (DAU) successfully forged ahead in 2013 with development of its Teaching and Learning Laboratory (TALL). That new lab was the deciding factor in DAU being named to the No.1 spot on our list of 2013’s best learning programs in the public sector.

Last August, the original TALL facility burned to the ground. But the DAU learning team, led by Dr. Chris Hardy, immediately went to work re-establishing its mission and making a pitch to superiors to fund a new lab.

Hardy’s team members were so thorough in selling the original TALL concept that they received almost immediate funding for the new facility.

“We’re constructing a new TALL out of the ashes of the fire,” says Hardy, the director of DAU’s Global Learning and Technology Center.

Undertaking the original TALL was no small project in itself. “A couple years ago, we wanted to keep up with emerging technology and best practices,” Hardy remembers “We benchmarked various organizations, and it allowed us to move quickly.”

But at the start, the group didn’t have a process, a facility, a way to easily test developing technologies or different teaching methods and formats of deliveries. In other words, they didn’t really have a disciplined work-flow fleshed out or even a business case for the over-all TALL initiative.

“Basically, we’d get an great idea, figure out what it would cost, and then try to deploy it,” says Hardy. “This resulted in some early failures in successfully deploying new technologies, and with the amount of things that were changing, we had to do something different, so we started looking around at dedicated labs. We visited some higher-ed teaching and learning labs at M.I.T. and some others. They were mainly teaching their faculty to use the new technology for the classroom.

“But as a premier corporate university, we needed to go beyond that. We have everything from adult learning to course development, faculty technology and workshops. We also needed a structured business case and workflow process with defined requirements (so we wouldn’t just jump to a shiny toy that titillated us).”

Certainly, team members hoped that lab experiments would have a high return on investment, and that failures in the lab would not be near as costly as an unsuccessful implementation to the DAU’s entire body of learners. So they investigated what would be the drivers to something like the TALL concept and formed an integrated product team.

“That type of approach also promotes a collaborative chain with buy-in from the users and the faculty,” says Hardy. “The structured process itself is almost more important than just a facility.”


1. Building a strong business case for investing resources in the lab and convincing senior leadership that this was a good, credible return on investment. Risk assessment and security issues were of utmost importance.

2. Getting and retaining funding and dedicated facilities for the lab.

3. And facilitating the “hand-off,” including change management and implementation. 

“We have 500 faculty members that have day jobs — teaching and facilitating some 1,600 offerings a year,” Hardy observes. “As with any change, you really have to not underestimate the communication needs and the training of the faculty. To get their buy-in and support, they need to be a part of the process and participate in the pilots.”

Besides Dr. Hardy, key people responsible for the continuing success of the Teaching and Learning Lab include the original center director Dr. Judith Bayliss (who won the 2012 Federal Government Distance Learning Association Pioneer Award); new center director Luis Ramirez; TALL project manager Janine Leboeuf; Learning Capabilites and Integration Center director Tim Shannon; and DAU CIO Tim Hamm.

DAU is a three-time winner of the Learning! 100, and first time as #1.

Top Learning Organization 2013

1- SuccessFactors: Driving Sales Performance

When SuccessFactors executives said they needed their sales metrics to improve, the team from SuccessFactors University (now SAP Cloud Talent Success) went to work. And their plans worked so well that the company placed first among private-sector corporations on this year’s Learning! 100 list.


In January 2012, there were three main challenges SuccessFactors executives needed to address: sales attrition was significantly higher than industry average; new hire sales rep time-to-quota was painfully slow; and too few representatives were achieving quota. 

“Executive management needed the learning and enablement organization to move the needle,” says Manette Chadwick, senior director of SAP Cloud Talent Success Content Development. The team started by identifying the key skills of highly successful sales representatives and built the sales training program around pre-identified skill sets. “We commissioned two external studies to identify why some sales reps were successful and some were not.” Comprehensive competency research was conducted to identify top sales skills, abilities, knowledge and actions. A skills profile model was also created.


In order to achieve the results that executives demanded, Chadwick and team instituted Boot Camp for onboarding new sales personnel and built it on their company’s social platform Jam and the company’s LMS. All instructor-led courses have a blended design with pre-course work, course homework and post-course work in Jam.

“An insight we gained from our Boot Camp was that learners love the social aspect of using Jam,” Chadwick notes. “They stay together as cohorts on their Boot Camp Jam site throughout their first year. They share stories, post pictures and share information. They’re no longer alone after that first week.”

The learning team also devised a go-tomarket product “playbook” for each product and built it on a mobile Web application platform. The new playbooks take sales people through the entire sales cycle, from identifying potential customers to closing deals.

Everyone in sales takes the playbook webinar, two LMS assessments, then delivers the corporate pitch for that product. They record their pitch in Jam and request, through the LMS, an evaluation from an accredited evaluator.

“We drink our own champagne when we use our own products,” she adds. “Classes are robust, on-demand and virtual — it’s like a Khan Academy performance support model.”

Boot Camp, the product playbooks and all enablement activities drive the competencies identified by independent research and aligns to the business objectives specified by executive stakeholders. 


“We focus on business impact results, not traditional training measures,” says Julie Abel-Hunt, director of Learning Delivery and Measurement at SAP Cloud Talent Success. “We align with our client’s metrics like decreasing time to quota, lowering attrition rates, increasing deal size, decreasing sales cycle time and driving new hire ramp ups. We align the competencies taught with the competencies needed to drive a business metric and are then able to show the results of our sales enablement efforts.

“In 2012, new sales rep ramp time was cut in half, three times more sales reps met quota, and overall sales attrition was down 80 percent compared to 2011 sales new hires.”results of our sales enablement efforts.

Abel-Hunt, who was a lead Boot-Camp instructor, is particularly excited about the results: “Reps who attended Boot Camp in their first 30 days of hire created 20 percent more pipeline with 173 percent more deals won than reps who did not attend.”

Chadwick summarizes it well: “When the learning experience is good and the learning is aligned to our business metric, learners are successful. And being successful keeps them engaged and happy. We take our jobs of driving success, engagement and fun very seriously.” 

Top Learning Organization 2013

2- The Juilliard School: Taking the Arts Online

Educators from The Juilliard School (www.juilliard.edu) are celebrating the first student enrollments in Juilliard eLearning, the conservatory’s first-ever group of online courses that has been developed for students in grades K-12.

The Juilliard School established this country’s standard for education in the performing arts, beginning with music in 1905. Its alumni are among the most famous recitalists, orchestral and operatic musicians, actors, and dancers, as well as arts administrators and teachers. More than 800 young artists from 43 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) and 40 foreign countries attend Juilliard today.

The first level of four Juilliard eLearning courses are now available — two elementary courses, one middle school course and one high school course — and all aligned to the National Standards for Music Education.

“We began exploring distance learning and online education forums a few years ago with the idea of looking forward to expanding our brand,” says Juilliard assistant vice president for Special Projects Tricia Ross. “We also explored other, more traditional types of licensing such as apparel and travel packages, but we felt the K-12 market would be an ideal place for Juilliard. It’s been a very good opportunity for us to learn more about the online education world.”

Juilliard eLearning courses, powered by Connections Education, provide schools and school districts an affordable option to keep their arts program alive or enhance their current music offerings. Parents gain an affordable new option to give their children a primary introduction to music concepts or a valuable supplement to their student’s current music lessons, with a world-class perspective.

Each Juilliard eLearning course features dynamic instructional sequences that enhance students’ understanding and enjoyment of music for a lifetime. Lessons provide a strong foundation in musical concepts, vocabulary, and notation. Students also learn how to recognize the sound qualities of orchestral instruments and gain a solid introduction to Western classical music, while exploring music from cultures around the world. Courses feature exclusive demonstrations, audio recordings, video performances, and other immersive content and interactive learning opportunities.

Among the innovative and dynamic learning tools that these courses offer to “bring music to life”: 

Virtual music tools – Each course provides students with the chance to put their music instruction into practice by using virtual music tools. They compose and record their own music, leading to greater appreciation and greater understanding. Virtual instruments available for students include xylophone, piano and violin.

Faculty Video Demonstrations – Students access videos featuring firsthand instruction from faculty and alumni from The Juilliard School and others demonstrating technique and discussing music theory. These videos are only available through the Juilliard eLearning courses.

Student Performance Videos – These videos feature student performers demonstrating techniques and instruments and playing pieces in the repertoire. These videos bring the music study to life for students.

The courses were initially offered to students enrolled at virtual schools. The courses are now being marketed to schools, districts, and individual students nationwide. In the future, courses may include music theory, music history, drama history or dance history. Synchronous virtual music instruction courses and virtual master classes are also being considered.

Top Learning Organization 2013

2- Shaw Industries: Re-inventing Performance Management

Not too long ago, the performance management process at Shaw Industries had some age on it and was becoming too mechanical, with not enough service and development components. All that changed about 18 months ago with the launch of what is called the “AIM” (Accelerate, Inspire, Motivate) performance management process, which has resulted in glowing reviews from many of Shaw’s current 23,000 associates.

“Every company grapples with this,” notes Danny Crutchfield, director of Corporate Training and Organizational Development. “We’ve done performance reviews for a long time, but we conducted some focus groups and found that our associates felt like the process needed some work and new life to make it more meaningful.

“The impetus kind of bubbled up from a lot of places. The Shaw Learning Academy and our HR partners proved that this is an area of opportunity. It started with our CEO’s new mission/value/vision and focus on greatness — of each associate knowing what greatness looks like in his or her role, whatever it may be.”

Shaw took on a mantra that would reflect its new corporate mission: “Great People. Great Products. Great Service. Always.

The sheer grandiosity of that mission provided some difficult challenges to the Shaw Learning Academy (SLA), which coordinates efforts to enhance associates’ skill levels and personal development with a broad offering of sales, operations, ethics, technology and leadership development courses.

Crutchfield, Brian Cooksey (who is director of Operations Training and Development) and others began to redesign the company’s performance appraisal process, in order to develop a flexible system that can adapt to a diversity of roles and job responsibilities while also providing for evaluation of a core set of “greatness” competencies.

“SLA had gone through strategic planning with executive leadership to tweak organizational mission and values,” says Cooksey. “As part of that, we wanted to reevaluate the performance management system to align with our organizational mission and values. We wanted to do a better job of communicating the importance of all the different roles that play into the performance management process, using online tools and online support resources to tie together all the various systems within the company.”

Since AIM’s launch last October, there has been a 21 percent improvement in the “on-time” completion percentage of performance reviews as well as more clearly defined goals and objectives. E-learning content has also been connected to this process, which has meant improved utilization of content that is specifically mapped to the competencies. New dashboard/analytic tools were also implemented.

Shaw also recently launched a supervisor leadership academy across its entire organization at different skill levels. The courses emphasize building and inspiring trust and having better interpersonal relationships. It’s a multifaceted approach that started with strategic planning but now brings many assets, tools and resources together.

“We’re trying to change the whole culture,” says Crutchfield. “We’re on a four- to five-year schedule to change the way we get feedback and communicate with our associates — particularly that manager-associate relationship.”

This first year centers around the program’s mechanics, which had been very traditional. But now the changes are being directed at corporate culture — not just at mechanics and deadlines. Completion rates are improving, and associates are making deadlines. “But what’s really improving,” Crutchfield notes, “are the conversations around real issues, real opportunities and real feedback — when it’s needed, not just once a year.”

The sheer number of reviews has escalated. “It’s not just about getting them done,” Cooksey observes, “but getting them done right throughout the year. This past month, we’re continuing to hold webinars and classroom sessions where we’ve engaged our business leaders to talk to managers and associates about what the competencies mean and how they’re important to our business. But we’ve still got a lot to do. We’ll continue to roll this model out to other levels of associates. 

“This is just another example of why it’s important that a learning organization be aligned with business leaders and business groups and to have a seat at the table,” Cooksey adds. “We’ve connected with them, ensured that we understand the goals and challenges, and we are making sure the learning solutions align with them. We’ve got that trust, and we all realize that we’re on the same team.”

Shaw Industries is a three-time Learning! 100 winner.

Top Learning Organization 2013

3- American Heart Association: Volunteer to Learn

The mission of American Heart University (AHU) of the American Heart Association (AHA), when initially conceptualized in 2007, was to create a place for all staff and their family to have free, online access to world-class education. Additionally the university would support AHA’s workforce strategy to attract, hire, develop and retain top talent capable of accelerating progress toward achieving the mission, by continuing to evolve the AHA as an even more compelling place to work.

The AHU combines hundreds of online courses with traditional in-person workshops. The addition of a new initiative, “Summer Learning Challenge 2012” helped the organization repeat its Learning! 100 Top 10 finish from last year.

Recruiting Derek Cunard — an experienced corporate university dean — to build the AHU from the ground-up, plus overwhelming executive support for the new proposition, has resulted in unheard- of 100 percent staff participation in educational programs focused on building muscle around AHA’s critical employee and leadership capabilities. AHU is the perfect educational vehicle that drives the AHA forward toward its critical mission and bold 2020 impact goals.

The concept behind the Summer Learning Challenge was to re-engage and challenge AHA learners to participate in voluntary online courses at the AHU during the two summer months (which have proven to be slower for staff) just after the organization’s fiscal year-end. Its goal was to encourage all staff to take a minumum of one online course during this period; however learning leaders suggested that any employee who completed five courses would be eligible to win prizes as a “Summer Learning Super Star.”

The results exceeded everyone’s wildest dreams. Learners were surveyed, and an impact analysis revealed an estimated $8.7 million net benefit in 2012 to the American Heart Association.

How did AHU achieve such lofty results? Primarily, innovative promotions were created to excite the staff to the possibility of taking courses during the summer. This included several videos, mailers, desk drop flyers, posters, emails and a complete rebranding of the university website to reflect the Summer Learning Challenge and suggested courses.

“We built all the courses internally with a team of six people and used some off-the-shelf Skillsoft courses,” Cunard notes. 

In all, the organization invested $5,000 in promotions, which resulted in massive increases in participation: 

-Total courses accessed: 14,095 (up 58% from 2011)

-Total courses completed: 12,153 (up 57% from 2011)

-Total percentage of courses finished: 86%

-Total staff participating: 1974 (up 17% from 2011) 

Additionally, using a formal impact survey after Summer Learning 2012 and an ROI scorecard, a study isolated and estimated AHU’s measurable impact on the association. These results include:

-6.5% increase in overall quality by its staff

-91% rate of adoption of online learning in first three weeks

-5.1% increase in revenue by its staff

-6.0% increase in employee engagement

-7.8% improved staff efficiency

-6.1% ability to reach their AHA goals

-$8,750,353 net benefit to the AHA

The findings also validated the use of AHU learning can reduce training costs and cycle time. 

“Executives from all areas were polled and asked which five courses would truly make an impact on our ability to engage volunteers while developing and retaining our AHA talent in order to further the mission and become an even more compelling place to work,” notes Cunard. “This helped create a list of courses that would be marketed in commercials to staff and inevitable became the most popular courses attended during the summer.”

AHA is a repeat winner in the Learning! 100 award. 

Top Learning Organization 2013

3- The Hertz Corporation: Gaining a Seat at the Table

Karl-Heinz Oehler, senior vice president for Global Talent Management at The Hertz Corporation, practices what he preaches. For a company to be truly successful in today’s ultra-competitive world, corporate learning must become a way of life.

“We don’t really look at learning in isolation, we look at it as integral to bottom-line success,” cites Oehler. “The philosophy is that employee development is integrated into business processes. Whenever you read articles and books, you always see that learning or HR or talent or development needs to be connected to business — but when you ask questions on how you do that, you don’t really get a good answer. Hertz is unique in that we have made that really important connection.” 

Hertz’s learning and development solutions have, as he puts it, “driven organizational effectiveness to enhance market competitiveness” by:

-Integrating into the firm’s value chain

-Defining its impact as economic value add

-Providing real-time response to business needs

-Delivering learning solutions, not training programs

-Becoming an integral part of talent management 

Oehler was the first proponent at Hertz to outsource learning, and it’s paid off in a big way. ACS Xerox, which manages the Hertz Learning Services , designs and administers instructional programs, and conducts some of their delivery.

“If we need to source anything specific, they will source it for us,” adds Oehler. “What we have kept in-house is some of the delivery of very specific programs, such as executive development and culture shaping programs. Even more importantly, we have established a role called ‘business learning partners,’ who are subject-matter experts in specific business functions.

“A lot of companies struggle to effectively outsource learning, but we’ve proven that it’s very effective, not only from an operations point of view but also from a business point of view.”

Oehler, using expertise gained through master’s degrees in social psychology and economics from the University of Düsseldorf, has convinced Hertz’s top managers that learning is indeed driving the company’s success. “When I joined Hertz in 2007,” he notes, “learning was 0.6 percent of total payroll and benefits; in 2012, it was 2.71 percent — which is a huge increase. There is a particular focus on the front line, because that’s where the action happens and where the customer contact is. That front line is more important to us than anything we do in the company.”

It’s important to note that the increase in learning and talent investment was not automatic. Oehler needed what he calls “a seat at the table” — a meaningful role in upper management’s financial planning meetings.

“How do you get a seat at the table? You get it if you understand the language that’s spoken at the table,” he insists. “I’ve spent half of my life in business, so when I transferred into organization development, I got tired of always defending why I need more money, when everybody else got what they needed just by asking. So I turned it around and asked the business managers what they wanted and demonstrated to them in financial terms that learning would generate monetary value to the bottom line.

“I wasn’t talking to the extended leadership about specific learning tools and assessment; nobody cares about those. What people care about is the output that learning generates that makes us more effective in the marketplace. Once they began to vet the numbers coming out of finance, I wasn’t disputed any more. That’s why we have a seat at the table.

“I do believe that HR and talent management are valuable support functions that need to be fully integrated into the business. I hire people who have business experience. Yes, I have specialists, but they can communicate what the business needs. I have proven in many instances that we’ve significantly impacted business results. Once you do that and the finance department is behind you, you don’t really need to justify yourself any more.”

Top Learning Organization 2013 

4- Khan Academy Educating 280 Million

As Sal Khan’s visionary project, Khan Academy, continues to grow, the organization has been named to the Learning! 100’s Top 10 list for the second consecutive year.

As of last month, more than 280 million videos had been viewed on the Khan Academy website, and more than 1.2 billion problems have been completed.

The online academy now boasts 4,258 videos, has 50 classrooms in its School Partnership program and 30,000 schools around the world participating. All this with just 42 full-time employees (including seven who create content) — but more than 13,000 volunteers.

“Many of our employees have had very successful careers at places like Oracle, McKinsey & Company and Pixar,” the founder notes. “Some have been leaders at technology start-ups; and others have come from education institutions such as Teach for America.” 

What he has done in five short years is to create a new learning and teaching model that can be used not only by students, teachers and home-schoolers but also by adult and lifelong learners to expand their knowledge. It has been hailed by professional educators as a truly advanced style of teaching and learning.

Khan founded the web-based organization on four core philosophies or guiding principles: 

Personalized – Giving students/learners the time and space to master concepts before moving on to a more advanced concept. Personalized learning allows students to build confidence, learn how to take responsibility and drive their own learning experiences.

Mastery-based – Students must possess a deep, conceptual understanding of fundamental ideas before they are pushed ahead to more advanced topics.

Interactive and Exploratory – Learning must bring students together to explore questions and grapple with them in tangible ways. Open-ended projects can help make concepts real and relevant to students while also giving them an intuitive and deeper understanding of a subject. To that end, the academy also runs in-person summer programs (Discovery Labs) to test and showcase interactive and project-based learning material.

“The obvious benefit to peer-to-peer teaching and learning is that it’s at least as powerful for the student doing the tutoring as for the student getting tutored,” Khan says. “To truly get mastery of a subject, you really have to teach it, distill it, explain it. On top of that, you’re building other soft skills, which are at least as important as other, tangible skills — skills like empathy, listening and guiding someone without making him or her feel intimidated or insecure.”

Data Driven – Accurate real-time data can supercharge learning experiences by allowing students, teachers, parents to see exactly the material that students should focus on for optimal learning outcomes. Additionally, data analysis of the billions of data points from Khan Academy users enable it to build a robust, data-powered learning experience.

Khan sees the day when the academy’s educational model is accepted by both educators and forward-thinking corporations. Indeed, some of its core philosophies are today being embraced by some companies. 

Kahn suggests that organizations make videos of any lecture based content, so that learners can review them privately and repeat them as often as they like. “It’s much more interesting to show rather than just tell,” he says. “Throw in exercises, data, analytics, badges, awards, and then all of a sudden managers and CEOs can see what content is being consumed, how it’s being consumed — and employees can do it on their own time, on the plane or from their iPad. It’s a much richer, constructive way to learn.”

Khan Academy is a repeat winner of the Learning! 100.

Top Learning Organization 2013

4- Vi: Diverse E-learning Pays Off

A strong partnership between a learning organization and its business partners creates significant shared success.

At Vi, where nurses make up more than one-third of all employees, the nursing leadership team and the company’s learning and organizational development department partner. The company’s dedication to properly educating and training its employees is the main reason that it has been named No. 4 among all privatesector learning programs in this year’s Learning! 100.

“Attracting, retaining and engaging top talent is a priority for Vi,” says Judy Whitcomb, Vi’s vice president for Human Resources, Learning and Organizational Development, “because the company recognizes that engaged employees produce quality results and are more productive, innovative and loyal — which, in turn, leads to customer satisfaction. Vi also recognizes and has proven that well trained and engaged employees have a significant impact on resident satisfaction and employee retention rates.”

Vi specializes in “luxury senior living,” blurring the line between resort and senior living, offering independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing residences. It has 10 communities in the U.S. 

Some of the company’s key L&D initiatives:

1. Management Development Program, where more than 25 percent of participants move into a higher-level position within one year of completion;

2. Free professional education/certification courses for employees; and

3. Leadership Institute for nurse leaders.

“We have been able to effectively leverage our online university, E-Campus, to ensure our nursing professionals receive the training and educational resources needed to provide quality care to our residents. It’s so important that we have consistent, high-quality training,” Whitcomb states. “We present a learning plan to all our nurses; monitor progress through dashboard reports that our managers get on a quarterly basis and audit every year.”

Learning at Vi neither begins nor ends with nurse training. 

“Integrated into the learning platform are different channels, and what we try to do is offer flexibility for our learners but also for our business,” notes Whitcomb. “We want to give our workforce different channels in which to receive learning, based on learning styles and operational needs. So we offer classroom, webinars, podcasts, reading libraries and a chat function.”

Based on statistics from the Hay Group, which conducted a recent Vi employee satisfaction survey:

-Employee engagement scores grew five percent since the last survey.

-71 percent of normed questions scored five points or more above Hay Group’s high-performing companies norm. 

-Vi realized employee effectiveness more than 20 percent higher than the norm of Hay Group’s high-performing companies.

-Vi scored 8 percent higher than the norm of Hay Group’s high-performing companies as a great place to work.

-More than 90 percent of employees are proud to work for Vi.

The end result of Vi’s focus on e-learning? Customer satisfaction scores grew from 86.5 percent two years ago to 93.6 percent in 2012. Two years ago, 82.6 percent of Vi’s residents would recommend the company, compared to 94.7 percent in 2012.

Vi is a three-time Learning! 100 honoree. 

Top Learning Organization 2013

5- National Archives & Records Administration: Development Transformation


Over the past four years, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has undergone the most significant transformation in its 75-year history. It comes in the areas of learning and training, and resulted in the organization being named to the Learning! 100.

NARA rolled out a fully automated Electronic Individual Development Plan (E-IDP), which is an end-to-end workforce development capability. Leveraging existing investments in technology, NARA’s Learning and Development Division (HL) designed and developed the E-IDP with the input of more than 400 staffers. It was launched in February to provide executives, managers, supervisors and staff with round-the- clock, anywhere, single-point access to NARA’s competency models, competency gap, analysis, training and development needs assessment, and resource repository (including experiential activities, VILT, ILT, e-learning, e-books, and other content that’s dynamically linked together).

When Mike Fitzgerald was hired as HR Development Specialist in 2007, “the first thing I wanted to do was a new employee viewpoint survey. So we conducted 65 focus groups across the agency that involved about 1,000 employees. We found that it was necessary to integrate e-learning, web-based training and distance learning and standardizing just-in-time training . It had to be one we could push out to our geographically dispersed locations.”

Fitzgerald assembled a cross-section team of senior managers to line-level workers, plus stakeholders and specialists. In designing the learning development architecture, the team defined touchpoints for value and levers that translate into customer value to deliver better, faster, more efficient service. The architecture included competency management and ways to map it.

“I also wanted to use existing technology and resources already in place without having to ask for additional funding,” Fitzgerald notes. “That meant leveraging the existing LMS, which was purchased in 2006.”

The key to the agency’s new E-IDP is that it digs deeper into existing competencies rather than primarily looking ahead. It is an attempt to help employees understand the “why” and “how” rather than just the “what” of training.

“The old form was a wish list, and that was the problem with individual development plans across the entire government,” observes Fitzgerald. “I looked at making it more like paint-by-numbers where each employee and the supervisor have a more balanced approach to their skills and competencies. Today, everything is dynamically linked or embedded in the new form that takes the employee to all the competency models for all the positions that have been created in NARA at any specified level. You’re defining the competencies that need to be enhanced or developed rather than the goal — which helps shape the conversation between employee and supervisor on the here-and-now first.” 

The next field in the two-page form is a repository of resources that are mapped to each of the competencies at each level. So essentially the employee lists his or her needs, and the system reveals competency gaps and developmental priorities. It walks the employee through that process to create a plan. “It’s a powerful tool,” Fitzgerald says, “exactly the approach that could be leveraged on a government-wide basis.”

Implementation, conducted in three phases, has been more successful than Fitzgerald ever imagined.

“I’ve got another version behind the scenes that I’m already updating for next August,” Fitzgerald notes. “The evaluation is going to run on a fiscal year basis, since we’ll also use it to identify trends.”

That’s another benefit: giving the learning division enterprise visibility. 

“We have data from across the whole agency, at every level, by occupation, by competency, to help management make better decisions,” he adds. “That’s powerful information to go to the table with.”

NARA’s E-IDP is what e-government is all about: reducing redundancies and spending, and leveraging investments.

“And it’s not hard-coded,” Fitzgerald concludes. “If Mike Fitzgerald can build this thing, anybody can. It’s very flexible, can be updated on the fly and not proprietary.” 

Top Learning Organization 2013

5- Cisco: Creating the E-learning Culture

Cisco represents the best of e-learning, and — as such — is a repeat Learning! 100 honoree. Last year, it was honored for its collaboration community, the Cisco Learning Network. This year, it’s being honored for advancing the practices of virtual leadership.

Cisco has been a driving force in e-learning since the 1990’s. Tom Kelly, former CLO, Cisco, believed the value of e-learning is reflected in business results. “The real measures of success here at Cisco do not involve training issues; they involve business issues. If customer satisfaction goes up because we have a more knowledgeable sales force, that’s not esoteric. If technology adoption occurs faster because the sales force is better-trained, we have real business impact that’s measurable. That’s the real benefit of e-learning, and that’s what we have to measure.”

Kelly’s approach has rubbed off on the entire Cisco e-learning staff, including senior director of Technical Support Drew Rosen, who says that success is indeed measured based on customer satisfaction scores delivered at the end of training programs. Learners rate the courses using the skills they’ve learned — along with how the instructors perform.

“Our virtual instructors get the same or better scores as with ILT,” Rosen says. “Customers are appreciative, because, one, they get to go home to their families; and, two, they can consume the education differently. They don’t have to sit in a classroom for six hours a day, but instead can take classes broken up into two-hour chunks, giving them flexibility in their schedules.

“Our customers appreciate this type of learning. When it’s done correctly, they actually stay quite engaged, and they get just as much out of the education as if they were in a classroom.”

Cisco’s Leading Virtual Classroom Instruction (LVCI) course is just one way that the company is remaining on the industry’s cutting edge. The course, which is used to “train the trainer” both internally and externally, teaches participants how to prepare and manage a virtual classroom, effectively deliver material online, and use collaboration tools to maximize student participation and comprehension.

“Because we were struggling with virtual instruction,” Rosen admits, “we realized that our customers would struggle as well. We actually built the LVCI so folks in other industries can leverage it as a way to understand how to adapt classroom materials for this kind of modality and how to hone instructor skills.

“We wanted to provide access to traditional instructor-led training in a virtual way so students [learners and trainees] would get the same experience as being next to an instructor — without the travel,” Rosen observes. “So we started to experiment with our own programs and realized that some of our highest-quality instructors in live classroom settings didn’t perform well in the virtual environment.”

This and other corporate offerings are all constantly evolving to better serve customers. So Cisco is indeed the epitome of a successful e-learning company: always advancing, always questioning, and always driving technology-enabled learning. 





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